Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind (Summary & Critical Review)

Have you ever wondered why Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc. are so memorable?

There are countless brands, but only a few of them stick in the minds of consumers.

It doesn’t matter how amazing your product’s quality is, if consumers don’t remember your brand in their minds, it’ll be difficult for you to survive in today’s competitive environment.

In this book summary, I’ll discuss the best strategies and ideas that any business can use to create a stronghold in the market and survive for a long time.

And no, you don’t have to own a company to follow these strategies, we all are potential brands on our own.

Alrighty, so without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Positioning Book Summary

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Ries, Al (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 226 Pages – 01/03/2001 (Publication Date) – McGraw Hill (Publisher)

Last update on 2022-07-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

The book discusses one of the core concepts of marketing: Positioning.

What is positioning?

In simple words, it’s how your target consumer remember or perceive you in their minds compared to your competitors.

If you find that consumers don’t buy from you, it might be a sign of bad positioning.

Don’t worry if all this sounds difficult.

We are going to understand why this happens and how to address this issue throughout this book summary.

Lesson #1: Positioning is very critical today if you want to get heard amid all the noise.

In the first few pages, the author describes how we are an “over communicated” society.

Think about it.

How many brands do you see every day?

How many of them do you remember?

Probably, five to ten. Am I right?

This is because our minds can only remember a limited number of brands at a time.

There is very little room.

But advertising isn’t going anywhere.

Even normal people now understand the role of marketing in growing their businesses.

That only means that advertisements are only going to scale rapidly.

Whether we like it or not, advertisements help businesses grow by selling more products/services. And thus make businesses make more revenue.

The core problem is that there is very limited room in the minds of consumers, but on the flip side, the number of businesses is increasing day by day.

It’s only natural that our brains filter out many brand names to make our life easy and save some energy.

This is why positioning has become very critical today.

A business must market in such a way that consumers give it a special place in their minds.

And not just any place, it must be positioned to be a leader.

For instance, if you are positioned at the 20th place, there is no sense.

If a consumer has to buy a product in your category, he must be able to recall your brand in the top 5 names.

That’s how a brand should think about positioning.

The final goals must be to make it to the top in the consumer’s mind.

Lesson #2: Positioning has more to do with the target customers’ minds than it has to do with the products.

Often people think that if they build the product right with a lot of research, customers will start rushing in.

That only happens with already well-known companies.

For new companies, unless you are positioning yourself correctly, you don’t see significant results. That is, customers buy from those that they already know.

Let’s say you launch a toothpaste product called XYZ, your customers will still buy from a popular brand like Colgate.

Why?

Because Colgate has positioned itself correctly over time.

Nobody trusts your product when you are new.

No trust, no sale.

The problem with new companies is usually bad positioning, and it happens due to lack of understanding of the market.

To study the market, one not only must understand the customer needs, but also study its competitors.

Don’t think that only by focusing on your product, you can win all the market share.

You also need to study the strategies that your close competitors are using.

Remember, whether you want it or not, companies are always fighting for the little space in the minds of consumers.

The author elaborates that positioning has more to do with the consumers’ mind.

Sure, product is important.

But what’s the point of having a product that customers won’t love and buy over and over again?

To achieve that, positioning is needed.

This wasn’t the case in the last few decades.

Today, an average person is marketed almost everywhere from all directions through all mediums in many subtle ways.

Demand is less. Space in the mind is limited for brands. Supply is over.

This doesn’t mean that our minds have limited memories. It’s just that when it comes to products, we can only remember a few brands for specific categories.

Be it online or offline, we are all surrounded by marketing campaigns all the time.

Lesson #3: Try to get the first-mover advantage and secure your position in the consumers’ minds before anyone else.

The author emphasizes being the first.

This has proved true time and time again.

Companies that make their positioning first tend to stick longer.

For example, Apple wasn’t the first smartphone creator.

But the iPhone changed the world by putting internet in everybody’s pocket.

Today, Apple is positioned a leader who provides premium hardware and software.

Over time, Apple has built a loyal audience that believes that Apple offers high-quality products, considering there are many mobile phone brands fighting to get the same market share.

New companies think that by using a new technology they can get more market share.

Sometimes, they do, of course, there are enthusiast consumers as well.

But it’s more about securing the position in the consumer’s mind over the long term.

That’s the right strategy if you want to position yourself as a leader.

Yes, you can also position yourself as a follower or alternative. Still, the first mover enjoys more profits with a big market share.

Android and iOS both are competitors when it comes to mobile operating system.

There were others operating systems as well, but people don’t remember a lot of brands.

Somehow, Android and iOS have positioned themselves correctly and therefore new companies struggle to replace them.

It’s very hard to replace an already existing position in the consumers’ mind.

The better strategy is to change your positioning, instead of changing the beliefs of the consumers.

Once beliefs are formed, they are almost impossible to change through sheer advertising.

Instead, it’s better to spend that advertising budget to position yourself and differentiate from existing brands.

Advertising works, but only if you do it the right way.

Try to find a gap in the market and show how you are different from your competitors.

Don’t show yourself or your company as “just another company with better service.” Remember, people don’t trust new companies easily.

They want to avoid taking the chance when the current brand is working fine for them.

Would you change your toothpaste product you’ve been using for years just by seeing an advertisement that makes similar promises?

Well, unless you are not satisfied with your toothpaste, you won’t switch.

Unless there is a big concern, you won’t switch.

People don’t switch easily. Emotional attachment is a thing.

Fortunately, there is a way.

Lesson #4: Put your competitors in the bad light.

This might sound unfair and bad, but that’s how the rules are set in the market.

The author shares an outstanding technique.

He says that if you reposition your competitors and highlight their weaknesses, it pushes the prospects to question their existing beliefs.

This works best when you have little to no trust in the beginning.

In the beginning, if your advertisements say that you are the best, nobody is going to believe that even if it’s true.

Brands hold a special position in the market as well as consumers’ minds.

The key is to create a new category.

Create a blue ocean in the minds of your prospects.

Referring to the previous example of toothpaste brand: If you are a new toothpaste company, there is no point in advertising “We are the best toothpaste company.” 

Nobody will trust. 

Why?

Because people have become tired of seeing these generic advertisements.

Those regurgitated claims don’t seduce them anymore.

Moreover, no company says that they are the second best after their competitors.

So, what’s the solution here?

The solution here: You can create a new category.

You can advertise that existing brand has harmful chemicals. And show your brand in a different light.

The benefit of doing this is that you become the first in the category of toothpaste that has no harmful chemicals.

You don’t necessarily have to take over the same position as the leading company.

You can create a slightly different position by differentiating yourself.

Isn’t this a great strategy?

Although these strategies sound cool, you need patience to implement them.

Results rarely come overnight.

Lesson #5: Think like a leader to build a strong positioning of your brand.

Think of any brand as a person.

Just like any person, a brand also has a name and personality.

A brand must stand for something.

There must be some set of beliefs surrounding a brand so that prospects instantly differentiate your brand from your competition.

Think about it: Who stand out from the crowd?

It’s the leaders.

Yes, you read that right.

Only leaders stand out from the crowd.

So to stand out among all that noise, your brand must become a leader.

Here are the qualities of leading brands:

  • They are good at communication.
  • They are ready to take a stand.
  • They make impact in the mind of the consumers.
  • They understand the markets. 
  • They understand the psychology of their consumers.
  • They use positioning correctly.
  • They are receptive to the changes in the market.

Attaining a leadership position doesn’t come easy for any brand.

It requires significant effort.

The disadvantage of being a leading brand is that you receive competition from everyone.

Your competitors will fight to replace you all the time. 

But there is always a workaround due to high trust in the prospects’ minds.

So, courage is also needed, says the author.

Recommended read: the courage to be disliked book summary


Positioning by Al Ries Book Review

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Ries, Al (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 226 Pages – 01/03/2001 (Publication Date) – McGraw Hill (Publisher)

Last update on 2022-07-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

Allow me to share my thoughts on this book.

What I liked in this book?

The book is best for marketers who want to understand positioning in detail.

Before I read this book, positioning was something I had only heard about and knew a few things.

This book has changed my perception about positioning brands and building thought leadership.

If you are a marketer like me, don’t waste any second. Go buy and read this book. You’ll love this book as it comes with lots of case studies.

The author has shared lots of case-studies analyzing why some companies failed and forgotten by people, and why some of them are still hold majority market shares.

What I didn’t like about this book?

I think the print quality was a little lower. No problem with font size. Fonts are big enough and highly readable.


It’s your turn now.

What was your lightbulb moment in this book summary?

Are you making a mistaking in your positioning too?

Leave a comment below.

Please don’t hesitate to share this book summary with your friends if they love to read about marketing strategies.

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Shami Manohar


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I'm Shami Manohar, the Founder of WizBuskOut. My obsession with non-fiction books fueled me with the energy to create this website. I read at least one book every week on business, critical thinking, mindset, psychology, and more. My mission is to educate and empower every individual through proper knowledge that works in real life.

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